Have you been charged with shoplifting in Florida?Typically, people facing shoplifting charges fall into two categories. They either feel like the deck is stacked against them and there is no point in fighting back… or that it is not worth their time and effort because shoplifting is such a “minor” crime.Don’t fall into these traps. There are a number of possible defenses that you may be able to use to battle your charges – even if it seems like a fairly open and shut case. And while shoplifting obviously isn’t as serious as something like murder, the state of Florida definitely takes this offense seriously. Depending on the specifics of your case, you could be facing high fines, jail time, and more. Even if you are facing one of the least severe charges, it’s still something that’s going to show up whenever anyone does a background check, which can negatively impact your life for years to come.That’s why it’s so important to seek out a knowledgeable attorney who can help you come up with the best possible defense strategy for your situation.
Understanding Shoplifting Laws in Florida
First, let’s look at the definitions of shoplifting and the punishments associated with the charges.Under Florida law, shoplifting is called “retail theft” and covers several different actions, including any of the following behaviors committed with the intent of depriving a merchant:
- Changing price tags
- Changing an item’s container from one to another
- Removing a shopping cart
- Taking possession of a merchant’s property
Both civil and criminal penalties may apply for retail theft convictions in Florida. Civil penalties are filed by the merchant and may involve restitution for three times the damages, with a minimum of $200 in damages, plus court costs and attorney fees. Criminal penalties fall along the following scale:
- Shoplifting property total value less than $100: second degree misdemeanor with fines up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail
- Total value between $100 and $300: first degree misdemeanor with fines up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail
- Total value between $300 and $20,000: third degree felony with fines up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison
- Total value between $20,000 and $100,000: second degree felony with fines up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison
- Total value greater than $100,000: first degree felony with fines up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison
As you can see, the Florida court system takes shoplifting seriously. In some cases, you can end up in jail over stealing something as seemingly minor as a shirt or a necklace.
Strategies That Can Help You Battle Florida Shoplifting Charges
Here are several possible defenses you can use to fight shoplifting charges.Lack of intentIf you have evidence to support the argument that you thought the item already belonged to you, or that you accidently walked out of the store with an item in your purse or bag, your charges may be dropped.Lack of proofIf the prosecution does not have enough evidence to support the charges against you, you may be set free from the charges.Mistaken identityMost retail stores are equipped with security cameras. It’s possible that they may have misidentified you from the recordings or from a mistaken witness.Mental illnessKleptomaniacs suffer from an impulse to steal. In this case, rehabilitation may be better than jail time.EntrapmentIf someone forced you to shoplift against your will with threats or coercion, you may be able to use the defense of entrapment.Returned propertyIf you forgot to return an item you borrowed, or you attempted to return it after the shoplifting occurred, you may be able to use this defense against shoplifting charges.
First offenseIf this is your first charge for retail theft, you may be eligible for a pretrial intervention program which can ultimately result in the charge being dropped.Need a free case review? Contact an experienced Florida retail theft attorney today to learn which defense applies to your case and how to fight your charge.About the Author:Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he's done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.